The value of hearing you got it all wrong

First he cleared his throat a couple of times. Then he stumbled over his words. Finally, he just put it out there. My colour settings were all wrong for the print job and he’d like to help me fix that.

Today a man explained something and helped me become better at my job.

This shouldn’t be something worth writing about, but I was totally struck by how difficult he found offering me his assistance. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to help me - he just seemed very worried about what my response to his suggestion would be.

How many people have brushed off his impulse to help? How many people have thought that they don’t need to know any more? Or was it fear his suggestion would be perceived to be mansplaining?

I’ve always been open to learning new things. When I was a reporter, it was a very experienced photographer from a rival newspaper who took pity on me and taught me some tricks for framing news photos. Another photographer introduced me to Photoshop and an editor at Channel 7 let me mess around until I had the essentials of video editing down. I remember all three of these men fondly as they shaped my career to become what it is.

My openness to learning new things is partially driven by curiosity. A lot of it is the experience to know that every tidbit of information will probably come in handy one day. And the other 26 per cent? It’s necessity. When you are self-taught and working in a rapidly changing field like social media and digital marketing you need to pick up these tips whenever and wherever you can.

I’m a good graphic designer when it comes to online work. I’ve created logos, billboards, magazines and flyers, but typesetting a book filled with graphics, glyphs and tables definitely stretched me to my limits. This isn’t a bad thing - it takes some research and a bit of trial and error. But the best way I’ve found to learn something new is to jump in the deep end, keep Google on hand and just give it a go. If you can get past the crippling fear that you are so hopelessly out of your depth, you will pick it up.

Of course picking something up and mastering it are two different things. There is a huge array of knowledge and tips available online, but half the trick is to know what you’re actually looking for.

So when this gentlemen finally managed to say, “you’ve got it wrong, let me help” today, I scared him all over again with my eager response. Five minutes of listening and a handful of mouse clicks later, the hidden default Indesign setting has been found and fixed. We’re both happy and what’s more, any print work I do from now on will be just a little better because of this man.

I hope the next time he has the opportunity to offer some assistance he won’t hesitate to speak up. And I hope the next person he approaches is just as willing to listen. After all, admitting you don’t know everything and that you can learn more leads to some of the most valuable professional interactions around.